Thursday, February 2, 2012

The One With the Comic Reviews

So, another Wednesday has come and gone. Ordinarily, this would be meaningless to me, but ever since I got back into reading comics this past summer, Wednesday has rapidly become my favorite day of the week. And since my arbitrary work schedule has rendered the relative meaning of any day of the week essentially moot, I now mostly think of Wednesdays as New Comic Book-day. In the spirit of regularly scheduled weekly excitement, I present to you the first installment in a (hopefully) ongoing segment: Comic Reviews*.

*Segment title and format subject to changes at whim.

First, this weeks haul:

Why yes, I am an amateur photographer! Thank you for asking. I find carpet to be a very satisfying universal background.
You will be seeing a lot of carpet, is what I'm saying.

Let's get started!

Action Comics #6
One Word Review: Dense
TL;DR Version: Don't get me wrong---I'm really enjoying Action Comics. Despite some weirdness from Rags Morales's art and the occasional bit of strange story pacing, I've been on board with this reworking of Superman's early career from the get go. This was one of the books I most looked forward to. And when I heard Andy Kubert was going to be taking over the pencils for issues 5 and 6, I was psyched. Then I realized that those two issues were going to interrupt the main story line, rather than continue it. Basically, Action #4 ends on a climactic story beat, and then the next two issues decide to talk about something else for a bit. Something that is seemingly completely unrelated. That's weird story structure to me. I don't know what's going on behind the scenes of this decision, all I know is that this is the second month in a row that I haven't understood a single thing that happened in Action Comics. I would like to lift a couple of lines of dialogue directly off the page for you to illustrate my point (spoiler-ish?):

"Nimrod the Hunter used a teleport rifle to fire a microscopic lead pellet into your brain. The pellet's hollow, and inside, there's a Tesseract space big enough to fit 30 people. I need to access your memory immediately."

That little nugget is courtesy of Saturn Girl, who is apparently a member of the Legion of Superheroes (along with Snowjob, perhaps? Don't quote me on that). But here is the thing: as a casual comics reader, those few sentences might as well have been Farsi to me. Now, I get the basics of it...someone fired an inhabited time machine into your brain. That's bad. But there's a lot of things that elude me. Who is Nimrod the Hunter? What is a teleport rifle? What the hell, any of this? That chunk of text basically represents this couple of issues of Action for me, in that I get what is loosely going on, but I feel like I'm missing out on the nuances of the story and what they have to do with anything. I will be glad to pick up next month's issue when the main story resumes.
Most Awesome: Superman gets VIOLENT Kryptonite poisoning. It's intense. You will believe this stuff is lethal.

Animal Man #6
One Word Review: Tangential
TL;DR Version: Another comic that takes a little vacation from the main story this week is Animal Man. In an effort to (I assume) give penciller Travel Foreman a bit of a break, this book brings in a guest penciller to handle all but the last few pages of the book. I think they wanted to make an effort to maintain a sense of artistic continuity in the book, so they opted to turn this issue into a viewing of Buddy Baker's (Animal Man) superhero indie film, Tights. It's an interesting device, but I came into this issue expecting another week of full-on Animal Man weirdness, and this wasn't it. This is a one-shot story that serves as a bit of a breather from the typhoon of crazy that has been assailing the Baker family (<---legit writing). It's an interesting enough read, but it just didn't do a whole lot for me. The films opening credits indicate it was directed by an Aronofsky type, and that is exactly what it feels like. This issue is essentially a reimagining of The Wrestler, and that's about it. Until the last few pages, that is. Eventually, the real world starts to disrupt the film world, and you realize why it is exactly that you've been "watching" this movie, and with whom you've been watching it. It's a nice move on the part of Jeff Lemire that has me even more invested in Buddy and his family, and ready to see them through whatever dangers await.
Most Awesome: I think I've seen this movie...

Batwing #6
One Word Review: Gripping
TL;DR Version: Batwing is an awesome series. If you are not reading it, I highly recommend that you pick up the previous issues and jump on board. This book is so much more than "Batman, but in Africa," which is what I initially wrote it off as. Compelling characters, an engrossing story, and unique artwork make Batwing much more than just another Bat-book. In fact, I would have to say that my least favorite parts of this book are the times when Batman shows up. David Zavimbe (Batwing) is a conflicted character with a legitimately disturbing past and a believable struggle for redemption, all of which is brought to the surface as the unstoppable Massacre continues his agenda to assassinate Africa's greatest heroes. Batwing is beginning to understand how to combat Massacre, and perhaps even who might be beneath the villain's mask. But somehow, with either meta-human resources or just an indomitable will, Massacre always seems to gain the upper hand. This interplay between the two feels consistently fresh, never predictable, and as the mystery behind Massacre's agenda deepens, I find myself waiting impatiently to discover what will happen next.
Most Awesome: Massacre's single-minded determination allows him to throw one hell of an explosive monkey wrench into Batwing's rescue attempt. If Batwing wasn't so cool, I'd be rooting for Massacre at this point. The dude is a BAD ASS.

Detective Comics #6
One Word Review: Meh
TL;DR Version: Detective Comics #1 was awesome. Grim, moody, and intense, you were riding shotgun with Batman, and he was having a ROUGH day. But with each successive issue, I find I care about what's going on less and less. All the characters blend together into an amorphous grey lump, and I find myself wondering about things like how Batman can so thoroughly furrow his brow through his mask, instead of being invested in what is happening. Like Action Comics, this is another book in which I feel like I don't understand what is going on. But this time, it isn't because the writer is going over my head. It's because Tony S. Daniel is telling a very muddy story. An important(?) character is pretty brutally attacked in this book, and while I responded viscerally to the brutality, I didn't particularly care about the characters predicament. The best thing I can say about this title is that it portrays Batman as ruthless and driven; you really can understand why criminals would be terrified by his presence. But does he do any detecting in Detective Comics? Not really. I have a sentimental attachment to this series, since the first comic I ever experienced was an issue of Detective. But I'm already reading Batman, which has been consistently impressive, so if Detective Comics doesn't turn around soon, I'll probably be forced to drop it.
Most Awesome: Batman "indirectly" causes a self-inflicted shotgun wound and then is all like, "Yeah. Deal with that."

Swamp Thing #6
One Word Review: Disturbing
TL;DR Version: You know, for a book in which the titular character has yet to appear, this series is kicking some serious ass. Yes, Alec Holland is the star, but he has yet to transform into Swamp Thing. The Rot makes for a horrifying force to be reckoned with, and between Swamp Thing and Animal Man, my nightmares should be fully stocked for the next few years. The urgency and the danger in Swamp Thing are ever-present, and that in itself is pretty cool. When I say this book is disturbing, I mean on several levels. Visually, yes, of course, but also in ways that affect your human core as you're reading. The last few pages of this issue are haunting and lonely, and despite the specifics of the situation, evocative of emotions that are immediately familiar to anyone. That's a cool thing to experience when you're reading a comic book. With the epic Red and Green vs the Rot showdown looming, and the cards seemingly stacked against the good guys, there is no reason to not be reading this book. Especially if you're willing to experience some aggressively weird things, because good lord...
Most Awesome: Abigail's creepy little brother tells a 2-page story about a chessboard for seemingly no reason, until you and Alec simultaneously realize what he's driving at...

Reed Gunther, the Bear-Riding Cowboy #6, #7, and #8
One Word Review: Funtastic; Clever; Awkward
TL;DR Version: Let me plug Reed Gunther for just a moment, since I really believe in what these guys are trying to do. Reed is an all-ages book. Not a kids book, but a book that is legitimately enjoyable for any age group. Think of it as a Pixar movie in comic book form: there's more than enough here to entertain anyone, young or old. And for that reason, you should give this book a try; or better yet, give it to someone you know who has never read a comic before. Having said that, I recently read the trade paperback which collected issues 1-5, and while I enjoyed reading them, I was not terribly compelled to keep going. But so many people I know continue to sing the praises of this book that when I saw issue #8 had come out this week, I picked it up, along with 6 and 7. I figured the least I could do was give it another shot, since brothers Shane and Chris Houghton are attempting something admirable with this title. I read #6 and enjoyed it very much. It's a cute origin story for the characters, with the series trademark expressive artwork and good-natured humor. There were some genuinely funny moments, and I was thinking that maybe I had been too quick to judge the title. Until I read issue #7. It was a clever story, with the same elements present that were in the previous issue (albeit a rather rushed conclusion), but something was missing. Issue #8 was even worse. Without getting too spoiler-y, one of the characters acts extremely differently for unclear reasons. At first it appears to be put on, but then you come to realize it's genuine, and it honestly just doesn't make sense. I get that the stories are supposed to be light and fluffy, but it's such a sudden and marked absence of any sort of psychology that I just couldn't get past it. Maybe I'm expecting too much from this title, but I don't think that's the case. It feels more like sloppiness in the writing to me at this point, and that is something that might disappear as the series continues and the creators get a bit more comfortable. For now, I can recognize that Reed Gunther is an entertaining book with a lot going for it, and I would definitely recommend it to others. It just isn't for me.
Most Awesome: Young Reed discovers the definition of "guff"; real men take shots of whiskey with bullets in them!; Sterling gets in touch with his feminine side

So those are my reviews. Already I don't think this will be my on-going review format, but hey, I tried. Some of these got a bit long-winded, huh? Well, thanks for reading this far, and please feel free to sound off in the comments. Anything you liked, or didn't like, about my opinions or my format? I promise to keep things's kind of my thing. 

And since I apparently need to cease any and all blogging until I have seen at least one episode of Dr. Who, that is exactly what I shall do (<----awesome rhyming). Join me next time to see what that experience was like! Or will have been like? Maybe after watching I'll learn a bit more about time tenses.

EDIT: My buddy Jason has posted an advance review of the upcoming graphic novel Womanthology over at Fanboy Comics. You should check it out if you want to learn more about this book:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like the way your blog is looking. Green Lantern. Classic. Plus, I like the format in which your review was presented. Looking good, buddy!